A couple of week ago, I mentioned the great discussion I had with an IMB representative. One of the things I asked him was, “If the 2+2 and 2+3 programs are so effective for assimilating and training missionaries on the field, why aren’t we adopting this strategy for the rest of seminary students going onto the ‘field’, including those preaching/teaching and leading worship?” He thought it was a good idea, so I began thinking about it a little more.
I briefly mentioned the disconnect between seminary and the local church last fall–a disconnect that has spawned the pursuit of theological education in the local church and the development of a blue collar theology. I have been looking at how different churches and ministries address this problem, such as The Pastor’s College (Sovereign Grace), TBI (Bethlehem Baptist), Internship and Weekenders (Capitol Hill Baptist), Internship and Extension (Lakeview Baptist), and elsewhere; but even with the encouraging and promising efforts made by the growth of church-based theological education, the fact remains that the majority of seminary students graduating are leaving with a diploma in their hands and little to no experience under the belts.
The lack of “field training” and experience is evidenced on a continual basis. Furthermore, students are assessed and placed on the basis of educational accomplishment and whatever else a short resume can reveal. Missionaries, however, are given much greater scrutiny and examination. Their theology is examined, their family and personal life assessed, and several years of on-the-field training are provided through a well-integrated program called 2+2/2+3. The first two years are completed at the seminary and includes the core curricula; the second-half of the program is field-based education that emphasizes an ongoing practicum for the remainder of their degree. You can read more about what this program looks like by going here.
SBC President Frank Page recently argued that the SBC could like shrink by half by 2030, and with the reality that many pastors will retire or die without a successor, one has to wonder who and how (and if) they will be succeeded. If we can be so committed to the Great Commission overseas to train and equip missionaries with field-based missiological education, then why can’t we be equally committed to the Great Commission here in the homeland to train and equip ministers with church-based ecclesiological education?
It would be great to see a 2+2 program made available for pastors. Together with my four years of college, I have now completed eight years of academic training. Fortunately for me, sandwiched in the middle of those eight years was four years of serving on staff at local churches, but even those years were spent in the “school of hard knocks” and trial-and-error, not having the know-how prior to that tenure. So much that is required for ministerial effectiveness can never be learned at seminary or Bible college, but at the same time, there are many things that the seminary can effectively teach that many local churches simply cannot provide. Having said that, it is my hope that something can be developed for ministers in a pastoral context where they can experience both excellence in education as well as competence in training so that our churches can succeed and communities better reached with the gospel.